San Diego Business Journal

Startup San Diego, the nonprofit that puts on the largest startup conference in the region, has launched its Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) program and selected five local entrepreneurs for its inaugural cohort.

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Alexa-Rae Navarro

The nonprofit led by executive director Alexa-Rae Navarro, said the organization received more than 100 applications to be part of this year’s class.

A year-long residency, the program was created to foster serial entrepreneurs to reside at the “epicenter of all things startups” as they build their next company, said Navarro.

Unique Model

The six founders will be immersed into the ecosystem by overseeing the nonprofit’s core programmatic competencies and facilitating strategic growth to support the organization in exchange for executive mentorship.

In addition, the group will help develop new strategies, streamline operations, and solve difficult problems to ensure they drive San Diego’s ecosystem forward.

“This model serves to anchor us closer to our historical grassroots origination by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs and acts a catalyst for the give-back ethos we value and envision for our ecosystem,” said Navarro. “Our diverse inaugural class will also serve to support us in delivering the first-ever virtual San Diego Startup Month this October.”

Founded in 2013, Startup San Diego is a local grassroots organization that brings together thousands of local entrepreneurs and business professionals passionate about startups.

Last year, its conference called San Diego Startup Week was held at the San Diego Convention Center for the first time to support the conference’s growth of more than 3,000 attendees across the region.

Going Virtual

With high expectations to continue growth, the nonprofit was forced to postpone its annual conference due to the coronavirus.

Navarro said the virus presented far too many unknowns and will be hosting its Startup Month in October as an alternative.

“The decision to postpone and take the conference virtual was anchored in the health and safety of the community,” she said. “COVID-19 presented far too many unknowns, therefore, we had to reimagine the conference structure to provide the best possible participant experience, virtually.”

The organization plans to deliver a month’s worth of content and experiences in an intentional and palatable way.

Leveraging its network, the nonprofit also partnered local organizations Downtown San Diego Partnership and Mission Edge to host a digital workshop series to support entrepreneurs who recently launched during the pandemic back in March.

Chris Stanchak, CEO of Loveseat and one of the six entrepreneurs selected into the program, said he sees this as an opportunity to further his company while helping other startups succeed along the way.

“Building a startup is one of the hardest things to do. Some days it is amazingly fun and full of success while others it’s incredibly frustrating and filled with failure. In my experience, having the right connection to peers and mentors is a big part of what enables success on this journey,” said Stanchak. “I’m very excited to be an EIR in Startup San Diego. This is a chance to help build a machine that makes those connections happen and helps other startups to succeed.”

Startup San Diego’s 2020 Entrepreneurs-in-Residence include:

  • Arielle Garellek, co-founder and COO at Advekit
  • Chris Stanchak, co-founder and CEO at Loveseat
  • Dominique McGill, human resources consultant
  • Kate Raiford co-founder and CEO at Prenursing Smarter
  • Peter DiSalvo co-founder and CEO of Data Capable 

Startup San Diego will also collaborate with several local startup organizations to host two ecosystem events including Quick Pitch and the San Diego Innovation Council (SDIC) Fall Innovation Showcase.